Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Sowing the seeds of peace

Here is my grandson (the blue blanket is from his mother's own childhood), dreaming and thinking and wondering.

He will be three in May.

His parents are raising him in an unusual way.  They are taking the approach of treating him with complete respect – the same respect they would show an adult.  They listen to him, and take him seriously, and they always have, from Day 1.  As a tiny baby, when his father was in love with him but somewhat overawed by his smallness, his mother entered willingly her responsibility to listen to him.  Even when he was silent she listened to what his soul was saying.  She put her considerable intellect to work observing, making connections, noticing links and patterns, to get to the place where she could work out what this or that noise, this cry or that cry, meant.  My grandson’s parents would no more dream of hitting him (call it spanking, call it slapping, call it smacking, call it any euphemism you like, they don’t do it) than they would think of slapping the face of the archbishop of Canterbury.

I do not know any other child raised like this, and I am finding it an education and a fascinating delight to see the results of it unfold.  At times I have felt impatient with it.  The child-in-me is always tempted to force things, hit them if they don’t go the way I want.  My daughter’s approach requires a person to behave like an adult to make space for the actual child to behave like a child.   The approach of the average parent is that the parent takes the role of the child – demanding, shouting, insisting, impetuous – while the child takes the role of the adult; watchful, responsive, second-guessing what is needed to make everything go right.

Now that my grandson can speak fluently, we are starting to see his responses to the world and the situations he encounters day by day.  Playing with his granddad (his mother’s father) about a month ago, he had been interested in some kitchen tongs for picking up hot food.  Seeing his interest, his granddad took hold of the tongs to personify them for a game, calling them Mr Nipper and Mr Grabber coming to get the child.  My grandson (his name is Michael, by the way) was intrigued, delighted and terrified all at the same time, engaged by the game but running away screaming to the other side of the kitchen out of the range of Mr Nipper and Mr Grabber.  Seeing genuine apprehension, his granddad laid the tongs aside.  Then a moment later, Michael demanded that he get "Mr Crab" back. He stood a safe distance away when Granddad pretended to get him, and he said said, "I not afraid of you, Mr Crab." Then he walked up and said, "Hello, Mr Crab," in a friendly manner, and waved. Then he started pointing out a few items of interest around the room.

His mother says this seems to be his tactic - to make friends with anything that scares him, and he does this with other children at the groups they attend. If another child upsets him or behaves in a way that worries him, he'll retreat to his mother and they talk about it, then he'll get a toy to give the other child and go up to make friends.

More recently at their home, Mikey was watching with his dad the powerful, moving, beautiful film Koyaanisqatsi, which contains stock footage of nuclear bomb tests. The scene of the bomb with its mushroom cloud is sombre and profound, and Michael was sensitive to the momentous nature of what he was seeing.   He wasn't upset exactly, but picking up on the gravity of it all, he felt concerned about the bomb.  He asked about it, and his dad told him what it was, and he said, "I want to talk to bomb, Daddy." When his father asked what he would say, Michael replied, "Don't worry, bomb. I give you some soup, bomb."

Way to go.

Underlying all aggression is fear.

I like the way my grandson is being brought up.  This is how to make love not war.  This addresses the seeds of war in the human community.  This is how wars stop.

As a young mother I held in my heart the hope/dream of the day coming when instead of teaching my children about the world, I would come to the spring of wisdom native to the country of their own souls, and learn from them.  It has happened.  My dream came true.  My children have all grown up into gurus, and by the beautiful wisdom in her my daughter Grace (good name, eh?) is raising a holy man.

There’s a whole raft of stories about the inimitable (Islamic) Mulla Nasrudin, wisdom fables.   One of the stories in particular stayed in my mind – of an occasion when a seeker came to the village where the wise man lived hoping for audience with him, but the wise man remained incognito, preferring privacy, so the stranger remained unaware he was actually talking with him.  And the stranger’s opening gambit was to say that he understood many famous men had been born in that village (hoping to compliment the villager, assuming he would take pride in fame attached to his village, I guess).  But the wise man replied that as far as he was aware, only babies had been born in his village.

I love that story, love it.  It makes my soul smile.  It does just what a story should do, which is contain a whole related series of truths nesting compactly inside nutshell of its exterior.  So much truth that I can’t be bothered to unpack them all and I’m just assuming you can see how big a story it is for yourself.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV)

I have been away from blogging for a while, working, thinking, thinking, working, feeling and hearing the whisper of the Spirit calling me along new-old paths, figuring out what I have to do and have in place, how to align myself and where the stepping stones may be to place my feet where the Way is calling now.  And I have thoughts and questions tumbling around to share with you.  How’s your Advent going?


Ganeida said...


May this season be a blessing to all who find shelter under your roof.

Julie B. said...

Michael is a beautiful child. Reading about Grace and Clay's ways with him makes me wish I could go back and redo a few things with my children. He is a blessed boy, and you are a blessed mom and grandma. And I'm so glad to see the new cover on the next *that's* how William looks! I've always wondered. :)

Gerry Snape said...

My advent is going well...I had lunch with my oldest friend today known since we were five and talked of good things and laughed! and my lovely daughter was up from the south with her two girls and all the family joined together for an advent meal and again we laughed...I also tried to raise my two this way...I said that our converation was between humans and that respect had to come from us all...we listened to one another and had family hugs a lot! Love that verse! hope you find this "Way" on the new - old road!

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Hi, ladies!

Yes, I've been enjoying reading your advent thoughts on your blog, Ganeida.

Julie B - I am pleased with that book cover. William looks a little less world-worn than I imagined, but I still think it's great :0)

Hi Gerry - blessings on your advent and Christmas family times!


DaisyAnon said...

Good to see you back Ember. My advent has been full of minor but inconvenient illnesses. I am practising going with the flow.

It is so good being retired and not having to worry about work and illness and procedures and points.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hey, friend! Hope you are well enough to enjoy a quiet, peace, blessed and contented Christmas xx

Donna said...

I've also barely touched down in the Blogosphere - this is a good thing, it means I've been living life. Dawn's left school now, and has wasted no time in beginning my education. A good deal of singing and industry, and an immense amazement at the mysteries of a six-year-old unfolding.
It's really good to hear from you again, and I look forward to finding out the direction of your thoughts!

Michelle said...

Ah Pen! We seem so often to be traveling parallel paths--stepping out with both confidence and trepidation towards what is familiar and comforting, having been a part of my life since childhood (writing) while simultaneously trying to figure out a way to make it work, to make it pay, as much as I don't like having to think that way about what is, for me, both art, and life--writing is breathing for me, essential, and having to find a way to sell my breath : ) is daunting. My Advent has been full of the usual penitential meditations but also, like Mary, I'm asking "How is this to be?" about these emerging realities in my life.
I love reading about your daughter and her son; I too, raised my children with full respect for their humanity from the start--to me, they've always been people deserving of not only my loving presence and attention to their expressed needs, but of a willingness to live and grow alongside them, not above them. As always, your writing inspires my own thinking and I appreciate so much your presence in the world; a peaceful and blessed Christmas to you!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello friends!

I guess you'll be very engrossed in day-to-day life, Donna, but I will be really interested in the occasional blog to follow how things are progressing. I mean, I know you only live ten minutes down the road, but the ordered and processed thoughts of a blog post give other insights :0)

Michelle, I have been thinking hard and sustainedly about the very things you mention here. Something that has been working like yeast in my mind is the comment that my (Quaker) friend Alice Yaxley left on my blog post called "Wait . . . but . . ." of Tuesday 11th October, here:
I have found her words interseting, inspiring and helpful - really directional. It made a difference to some choices and ordering of my life.

Pen Wilcock said...

tsk. sorry. "interesting", obviously, not "interseting" . . .

Yppah Samtsirhc

.kp. said...

Hello there!

So glad you are blogging again. You were missed!

As a followup to this post I wanted to introduce you to another woman, author, blogger who raised her 4 children just as your daughter is. She has been a mentor to me all of my parenting. Her blog is:

In addition please note her oldest daughters blog here:
as the fruits of her parents investment are so evident.

PS. Her daughter will be teaching at Oxford this next semester, if by any chance you will be there.

Merry belated Christmas to you. Praying you onward.

Pen Wilcock said...

Thanks, friend! x